30 Hottest Spots in Japan for International Visitors [2016 edition]
It is always a huge challenge to choose what to see and do while you are in Japan. Here we introduce you to 30 places that are especially popular with international visitors, just to narrow down your challenge a little. You will find some of the best places to savor the traditional, unique culture and landscapes of Japan!
Jul 01 2016 (Sep 09 2020)
So you decided to visit a new country for the very first time! Where to go? What to see? It is always an exciting, yet hard decision. Of course, Japan is no exception. Although it is a small country, it is also hugely diverse and has so much to offer. So, let's see what attractions are particularly popular among tourists from abroad.
Tripadvisor has just published the 2016 edition of "Top 30 hot spots to visit for the foreign tourists". Let's see which 30 coolest places made the list this time. They were selected by the fellow tourists just like you, not a selection by the usual travel guides!
30. Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gassho-style houses [Gifu]
Three villages of Hagimachi, Suganuma and Ainokura, and five valleys of Akaodani, Kaminashidani, Shimonashidani, Togadani and Otan of Gokayama make up Shirakawago, which became one of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1995. The famous traditional "Gassho-style" houses with the tall, triangular shaped roofs are all the more impressive during the winter, covered with deep snow, creating a spectacular, out of this world atmosphere.
HP: travel.kankou-gifu.jp/tw/ (中文)
HP: www.kankou-gifu.jp/spot/1206/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 2495-3 Oaza-Ogimachi, Shirakawa, Ono-gun, Gifu (Google Map)
29. Kinosaki Onsen [Hyogo]
Kinosaki is said to be the original “Onsen-hopping” site. You will enjoy touring around its 7 outdoor hot springs, surrounded by an enchanting scenery which showcases its ever-changing charms of the four seasons. It may become addictive and makes you want to come back again and again! The first guest of the day gets a special memento, which is an extra attraction.
Open M-F 8:45am-6:00pm, Sat. 9:00am-5:00pm, Sun & Holidays 9:00-3:00pm
Daily pass for unlimited access to all hot springs at ¥1200 (¥600 for children), available at the reception of each hot springs.
HP: www.kinosaki-spa.gr.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: Kinosaki-cho, Toyooka-shi, Hyogo (Google Map)
28. Gear ART COMPLEX 1928 [Kyoto]
Gear is a unique theater which offers a fun, non-verbal entertainment with an eclectic mix of magic, dance, juggling etc. Comical in one moment, touching inanother, it appeals to a wide range of audience, young and old, male or female. It has become one of the biggest attractions which represent Kyoto at its modern best.
Open from 10:00am to 7:00pm
Admission fees vary depending on the program. Children under 3 years of age are not allowed.
HP: www.gear.ac/cht/ (中文)
HP: www.gear.ac/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 1928 build. 3F 56 Benkeiishi-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto (Google Map)
27. Samurai Museum [Tokyo]
Located in Kabukicho, Samurai Museum was made especially for foreign visitors, introducing the typical culture of the traditional Japanese warriors. You will enjoy not only the display of armors and helmets, but also have the chance to learn much about their history, which span over 700 years.
Open from 10:30am to 9:00pm. Last admission at 8:30pm.
Admission: Adults ¥1800, Child ¥800 12 and under, free for children 3 and under.
HP: www.samuraimuseum.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: Eiwadai 6 bldg. 1-2F, 2-25-6, Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
26. Kyoto Station Building [Kyoto]
The ultra-modern Kyoto station building was designed by Koji Hara, and was inaugurated in 1997. The main atrium opens up to the sky with its 4000 glass panes. You won't be able to tear your eyes away from the incredible spaciousness and the grand staircase which leads up to the top floor. The building is packed with shops, department stores, restaurants, and a hotel, so you can easily spend hours inside.
Hours vary, each shop and restaurants keep its own hours.
HP: www.kyoto-station-building.co.jp/index.htm (Japanese Only)
Address: Higashishiokoji Kamadono-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-ku, Kyoto (Google Map)
25. Meiji Jingu [Tokyo]
Like a huge green oasis in the middle of the modern hubbub of Harajuku, just 1-minute walk from the station, Meiji Jingu (or Meiji Shrine) has always been popular with tourists and locals alike. A visit of Meiji Jingu is said to bring a good luck of all sorts to the visitors. Some of the most known legends are going through the O-torii (large red gate) will guarantee a good marriage, or touching the “Turtle Stone” will bring you happiness. Why don’t you give it a try, and see if it will come true? You never know!
Open: from sunrise to sunset.
Admission: Contribution of ¥500 for the maintainance of the garden, and ¥500 for the maintainance of the facility is requested.
HP: www.meijijingu.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 1-1 Yoyogi Kamizono-cho Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
24. Misen [Hiroshima]
Famous in connection with the legendary monk Kobo-Daishi (a.k.a. Kukai), Mount Misen was given the nickname “a miraculous space”. The vista from the top of the sacred mountain of 1755ft. is purely breathtaking. You can reach the 1400ft. point with a ropeway gondola. Enjoy the gorgeous view of the one and only Miyajima from this vantage point!
HP: miyajima-ropeway.info/ (Japanese Only)
Address: Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima (Google Map)
23. Lake Kawaguchi [Yamanashi]
Located to the north of Mt. Fuji, there are Fuji Go-ko, or the Five Lakes of Fuji: Kawaguchi, Sai, Yamanaka, Shoji and Motosu. Only an hour and a half of travel from Tokyo, it is a perfect spot to admire the legendary mountain. With the amusement park “Fujikyu-Highland” and ample choices of entertainment venue and shopping, Fuji-Go-ko area became hugely popular with holiday makers.
HP: www.fujisan.ne.jp/index_c.php (中文)
HP: www.fujisan.ne.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: FujiKawaguchiko-cho, Minami Tsuru-gun, Yamaguchi (Google Map)
22. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route [Toyama]
Tateyama has gained its fame with its massive vertical wall of snow along the road, and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route will not disappoint your expectation during the winter. You will never forget the unique experience of traveling through the imposing white wall! But not only during the winter, you will also find it extremely charming during the autumn, with the beautifully colored trees. Regardless of the season, you are in for a memorable trip!!
HP: www.alpen-route.com/tw/ (中文)
HP: www.alpen-route.com/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 2 Bunazaka-Ashikuraji, Tateyama-machi, Nakaniikawa-gun, Toyama (Google Map)
21.Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium [Okinawa]
Located in Motobu, you can admire the majestic whale sharks at the section “Exploring the Kuroshio-current” and many other amazing marine creatures at expositions such as “The Coral Sea” and “Journey to the Deep Six”. They also offer dolphin shows at no extra charge, it became must-see for the visitors of Okinawa. Free access to wheelchairs and baby buggies.
Open from 8:30am to 20:00pm. Last admission 19:00pm.
Closed on the first Wednesday and Thursday of December
Admissions: Adults ¥1850, High School student ¥1230, Elementary & Jr. High student ¥610.
HP: oki-park.jp/kaiyohaku/sc/inst/73 (中文)
HP: oki-park.jp/kaiyohaku/inst/73 (Japanese Only)
Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-district, Okinawa (Google Map)
20. Kenroku-en Garden [Ishikawa]
Kenroku-en of Kanazawa, constructed during the Edo period (about 170 years ago), is considered as one of the three most notable gardens of Japan, along with Kairaku-en of Mito and Koraku-en of Okayama. Kenroku-en is complete with all of the six necessities in a perfect garden, which are spaciousness, seclusion, artifact of men, antiquity, richness of water, and a sweeping vista. It is perpetually popular with the tourists, who come to enjoy its seasonal beauty all around the year.
Open all year long. (except Shigure-Tei, the traditional tea house)
Admission: Adults ¥310, 6-18yrs old ¥100
HP: www.pref.ishikawa.jp/siro-niwa/japanese/top.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 1 Kenroku-cho, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa (Google Map)
19. Daihonzan Daisho-In [Hiroshima]
Daihonzan Daisho-In is believed to be the oldest temple in Miyajima. It is known for its connection with the greats of the Japanese history, such as Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Hirobumi Ito. The appearance of this temple may not be as extravagant as the better-known Itsukushima Shrine, Daisho-In offers you the chance to immerse yourself in its wonderful history. Open to general public, to visit the inside the admission is ¥500. (Appointment required)
HP: www.galilei.ne.jp/daisyoin/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 210 Takimachi, Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima (Google Map)
18. Asakusa [Tokyo]
The symbol of Asakusa is arguably Kaminarimon, the gateway to the Asakusa Shrine, with its unmistakable huge, red lantern at the center. Stroll along the Sumida River and through the bustle of Nakamise-Dori, which leads up to the famous shrine. Experience the rickshaw, the taste of eel and Hanayashiki amusement park. Asakusa, a perpetual favorite for many international tourists, is a world of its own!
Open: 6:00am-5:00pm (Apr. – Sept.) 6:30am-5:00pm (Oct. – Mar)
Open every day of the year.
HP: asakusa-kankou.com/ (Japanese Only)
Address: Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
17. Narita-San, Shinsho-Ji [Chiba]
The famous Shinshoji Temple was founded during the Heian Period, about 940 years ago. Apart from the main structure, you must check out the beautiful pagoda and the impressive Niomon gate. It is a popular place of worship, and it is also known to be frequented by several celebrities, such as a famous Kabuki actor Kozaburo Ichikawa. It is easily accessible from Narita International Airport, thanks to a direct connection by Keisei Railway.
Open every day of the year
HP: naritasan.or.jp/pray/index.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 1 Narita, Narita-shi, Chiba (Google Map)
16. Shiratani Unsuikyo [Kagoshima]
Shiratani Unsuikyo is famous as the location of the film “Princess Mononoke” by the great Hayao Miyazaki. The climate of Yakushima, where this beautiful ravine is located, is said to rain “35 days a month,” and thanks to its moisture, the moss covers much of the scenery. The mysterious atmosphere along the Shiratani River at the altitude of 2600-4200ft will take you right to the world of the famous animation.
Admission: Contribution of ¥300 is requested for anyone 16 years old and up. ¥250 for a group of 15 and more.
Open all year. The passage may be closed due to a snowfall during the winter.
HP: www.kagoshima-kankou.com/tw/ (中文)
HP: www.kagoshima-kankou.com/guide/10740/ (Japanese Only)
Address: Ishizuka National Forest – Mt. Miyanoura, Yakushima-cho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima (Google Map)
15. Ritsurin Garden [Kagawa]
This traditional garden is one of the true cultural treasures of Japan, it received a national designation in 1953 as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. You will be enchanted by the picture perfect vista as you stroll along the park. You can also enjoy a boat ride on the pond, just as the daimyo (feudal lords) used to do centuries ago, or have a pit stop at one of the quaint tea shops, treat yourself to a lovely day out immersed in nature and history!
Open every day of the year
Admission: Adult ¥410, Elementary and Jr. High students ¥170. Free for pre-school children.
HP: ritsuringarden.jp/jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 1-20-16 Ritsurin-cho, Takamatsu-city, Kagawa, Japan (Google Map)
14. Sanju-Sangen-Do [Kyoto]
The proper name of this temple is “Renge Oin-do”, however, it became famous as Sanjusangen” (or 33 spaces), because of its notable 33 intervals between the columns of the building. This temple is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon (the Buddhist goddess of mercy). As the legend has it, visitors will find one that looks identical to them among them. Why don’t you take your time and meet them all, and find your look-alike?
Admission: Adult and Uni student ¥600; High school and junior high student ¥400; Children under 12 years old ¥300. Half price for the handicapped visitors.
HP: sanjusangendo.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 657 Sanjūsangendōmawari, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto (Google Map)
13. Eikan-do Zenrin-ji [Kyoto]
Zenrin-Ji, or more commonly known as Eikan-do, is one of the best spots in Kyoto to admire the landscape with the beautiful autumn colors. There are a few must-see attractions when you visit Eikando. Amida, a beautiful statue in a unique pose of turning its head, looking over its shoulder. Suikinkutsu, an amazing musical instrument of bamboo and spring water, and of course if you are lucky to be in the season, the splendid autumn colors that surround the temple.
Open every day of the year
Admission: Adults ¥600; Students (6-18yrs) ¥400
HP: www.eikando.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 48 Eikando-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Google Map)
12. Koyasan Oku-No-In [Wakayama]
Oku-no-In of Koyasan, with its history that stretches over 1200 years, has always been a big attraction. It is a sacred spot for Kukai, the legendary master of Buddhist teaching from the 7th century. Therefore it has been heavily visited not only by tourists but also by the religious followers to pay homage.
Open: 8:30am-5:00pm (last admission at 16:30)
Admission: Adult ¥500; Children 12 years and under ¥200
HP: www.koyasan.or.jp/meguru/sights.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 132 Koyasan, Koya-machi, Ito-gun, Wakayama (Google Map)
11. Hakone Open-Air Museum [Kanagawa]
The first open-air museum in Japan opened its door back in 1969. You will encounter some of the masterpieces by great artists such as Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso in a beautiful, natural setting. At the same time, you will also find plenty of attractions for your children to pass their time in its unique playground. The museum is truly family oriented, setting itself apart from a typical art gallery. It is considered one of the largest open-air museums in the world.
Open from 9:00am-5:00pm (last admission at 4:30pm)
Open every day of the year
Admission: Adult ¥1,600; Uni, high school student ¥1,200, Elementary, jr. high student ¥800, Senior citizen 65yrs and over ¥1,100
HP: www.hakone-oam.or.jp/about/ (中文)
HP: www.hakone-oam.or.jp/about/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 1121 Ninohira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa (Google Map)
10. Kiyomizu-dera [Kyoto]
Kiyomizu-dera (or Kiyomizu Temple) was founded back in 780, during the Nara Period, as the headquarter of Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools in Japanese Buddhism. You can enjoy a spectacular vista from its famous, massive, soaring main deck. The deck has inspired a popular aphorism, “Jumping from the deck of Kiyomizu”, which means the moment when one takes an extremely bold decision with no possibility of turning back. The temple was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1994.
Open from 6:00am-6:00pm
Admission: Adult, High school student ¥300; Elementary, jr. high student ¥200
HP: www.pref.kyoto.jp/cn/index.html (中文)
HP: www.pref.kyoto.jp/isan/kiyomizu.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Google Map)
9. Akiba Fukurou [Tokyo]
Who can resist a chance to sit down and spend a relaxing yet exciting hour hanging and chilling with a group of adorable owls? Akiba Fukurou offers just that! Located in the middle of the busy center of Tokyo, you can experience a close encounter of the total Fukurou (=owl) kind! Lose yourself in their big round piercing eyes, a visit with Akiba Fukurou is sure to be a memorable experience! Photographing allowed, online booking required for a visit.
Open M-F 12pm-10pm (Wed. 4pm-10pm) Sat. Sun. Holidays 12pm-11pm
Open every day of the year *Online reservation required.
Admission: Adult ¥890, Child ¥540
HP: akiba2960.com/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 67 Kanda Neribei-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0022 (Google Map)
8. Rokuon-ji (Kinkaku-Ji) [Kyoto]
While its official name is “Rokuon-ji”, this zen temple has become universally famous as “Kinkaku-ji”, or golden pavilion, because of its stunning golden appearance. The structure was originally built as a villa for the great Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, symbolizing the extravagant Kitayama culture. It looks over a tranquil pond and the garden that represents the pure land. One of the most significant historic treasures of the world, Kinkaku-ji burned down back in 1950, and was completely restored after 5 years.
Open from 9am-5pm
Admission Adult, uni & high school student ¥400, Elementary, jr. high student ¥300
HP: www.pref.kyoto.jp/cn/index.html (中文)
HP: www.pref.kyoto.jp/isan/kinkaku.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Google Map)
7. Nara Park [Nara]
Nara Park became famous for its special residents, the deer. Currently, 1100-1300 deer live in the park; they are national treasures and are fully protected. The visitors can freely interact with the deer; deer snacks can be bought on the premises. Inside the park, you will also find Todai-Ji Temple and Kasuga-Taisha Shrine (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The park is an ideal place to enjoy the amazing colors of autumn.
Open 24 hours a day
HP: www.pref.nara.jp/1713.htm (Japanese Only)
Address: Nara-shi, Nara (Google Map)
6. Shinjuku-Gyoen [Tokyo]
Shinjuku Gyoen opened in 1906 as a garden for the royal family. It later became a public park. It merges the distinct styles of English, French and Japanese gardens, creating a unique, eclectic atmosphere. A spacious green oasis in the heart of Tokyo, the park is a perpetual favorite for anyone looking for a moment of relaxation and tranquillity.
Open 9:00am-4:30pm (last admission at 4pm)
Closed on Mondays, New Years Eve and New Years Day.
Admission Adult (15yrs and older) ¥200; Elementary & jr. high student ¥50
HP: www.env.go.jp/garden/shinjukugyoen/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 11 Naito-machi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
5. Samurai Kembu Theater [Kyoto]
The theater is especially designed for international tourists. Apart from the amazing Seiga-ryu “Kembu” (Dance of swords) performance, the visitors have the opportunity to transform themselves into real samurai. The staff will not only help you to properly dress up, but also teach you to act and pose like a real traditional warrior. You will get a photo at the end of the lesson, which became a perfect souvenir for many tourists.
Admission starts at ¥1000, depending on the program (Extra charge for a Samurai lesson)
HP: www.samurai-kembu.co.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: Neo Art Bldg. B1F, 3-35-7 Sanjo-Hanamikoji Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi Kyoto-fu (Google Map)
4. Todai-Ji [Nara]
Tokai-ji is one of the most famous temples in Nara. And the star of the temple is arguably the massive statue of Buddha, or “Daibutsu-sama” of Nara. Just looking at its benevolent expression, you feel as if you received a special blessing. Other attractions of Todai-ji include Sangatsu-Do and its statues, and Omizutori, or the annual sacred water drawing festival, at Nigatsu-Do in early March.
Admission ¥1000, Children 12 yrs and under free.
HP: www.todaiji.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara (Google Map)
3. Miyajima (Itsukushima) [Hiroshima]
Itsukushima Shrine of Miyajima Island is considered as one of the three most scenic spots of Japan. It became one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1996. It is one of the most beloved travel destinations for international tourists, along with Kyoto. Its famous Floating Torii is beautifully illuminated in the evening, truly a remarkable sight. Cherry trees and maple trees surround the temple, making the scenery even more splendid in spring and autumn.
Admission Adult ¥300; High school student ¥200; Elementary & jr. high student ¥100
HP: visit-miyajima-japan.com/zht/ (中文)
HP: www.miyajima.or.jp/sightseeing/ss_itsukushima.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 1-1 Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima (Google Map)
2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum [Hiroshima]
The victims of the nuclear bombing have contributed many of the materials on display at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It is a somber experience, and you are reminded of the incredible tragedy which must never be repeated. The museum receives increasing number of visitors from abroad in recent years. It teaches us of the horrific historical fact, never to be forgotten yet we all must learn from it.
Open Mar-July 8:30am-6pm, Aug 8:30-7pm, 5th, 6th of August 8:30-8pm, Sept-Nov 8:30-6pm, Dec-Feb 8:30-5pm
Closed 30 & 31 December
Admission Adult ¥200, High school student ¥100, Children 15yrs and under free.
HP: www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 1-2 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima (Google Map)
1. Fushimi Inari-Taisha [Kyoto]
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, the headquarter of “Inari” Shintoism, is one of the biggest draws of Kyoto. It is considered as the patron of business. Walking through thousands of bright red torii gates all the way up to the shrine at the top of Mount Inari is an unforgettable experience. You can also try your luck with “Omokaru-ishi”, a mysterious stone, by guessing the weight of the stone and then trying to pick it up, which may bring you a good fortune!
Open every day of the year, 24 hours a day
HP: inari.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchi-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Google Map)
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[Travel tips in Japan]
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.